We welcomed 26 participants from across the U.S., Canada, France and India to our virtual workshop today, with many returning and several newcomers. Inspired by the recent “Creative Impulse” weekend workshop, we departed from our traditional visual text format and listened to “Steroid-Induced Gastronomy” an episode from CHONY Corps, a new podcast series created by MS alum and pediatrician, Anoushka Sinha.
We played the 5-minute recording just once, asking participants to listen closely and jot down words, phrases, imagery and sounds they heard. Then we invited them to write for 3 minutes the story that they heard. Some participants shared what they wrote, and these writings focused on themes of creativity, determination, relationships and resilience. It was noted that the boy, Jake, though only 10, seemed wise beyond his years, exploring his experiences with food and taste during his treatment with curiosity and the irony of how he had changed since he was ”younger”. It was observed that only his mother spoke of his treatment-related symptoms of bad tastes and mouth sores, which drew an arc for the listener between child, food, and illness recognizing food as a gift of strength. One participant observed the background music of a xylophone seeming to be childlike, or a soundtrack to a children’s story. The preparation and sharing of food within the family was likened to a “table of ministry.”
After the story sharing, we opened it up for a group discussion. One participant noted with interest how differently some people had approached the writing exercise: from a historian’s point of view it was about documenting a series of events while others interpreted what they heard instead. Several physicians spoke to the importance of engaging a patient to talk about what they’re interested in as presented in this podcast. Jake’s acknowledgement that food “doesn’t just appear” (once he slowed down to appreciate it and cook for himself) reminded us that we could better appreciate his story once we slowed down and listened to it, uninterruptedly. Finally, it was also clear that love is often shown through food, as Jake and his mother had no trouble in declaring their love and mutual pride in each other’s strength and support.
Our writing prompt, “Write about a hunger,” inspired a variety of forms and creative expressions: a list that reminded us of a recipe or a children’s book with its repetition and rhythm, an introspective look at one’s privilege of being able to care for others while defining success by one’s ability to guarantee survival, a medical-care memory of a surprise reunion and a miracle of hope, a search for tranquility marked by “growling words,” and a visceral description falling asleep with a full belly: reality or folly?
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!
Please join us for our next session Monday, November 2nd at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.